Belfast Telegraph

Stephen O'Neill can be our Gary Twigg, says Ards boss Currie

By Keith Bailie

Niall Currie believes striker Stephen O'Neill could be 'the Gary Twigg of the Championship.'

Portadown's prolific Scottish born centre-forward is regarded as one of the finest finishers in the Premiership and Ards boss Currie believes former Cliftonville man O'Neill can be the Championship One equivalent of Twigg.

So far, O'Neill has bagged 25 goals this season. 21 for Loughgall and four for his new club Ards. The former Donegal Celtic striker added to his collection on Saturday, scoring a late winner in the Red & Blues' 2-1 win over PSNI in Bangor. His fine flicked finished in the 86th minute helped Ards cut Bangor's lead at the top of the table to two points.

Currie said: “Stephen O'Neill is a player I have tried to sign on a number of occasions, but for whatever reason, it has never been right for him. We tried to sign him in the summer but he opted to go to Loughgall, but the important thing is we've got him now and I hope he is here for a few years.

“He's a goal-scorer who brings a lot to the party. Every top team needs a player like Stephen, who can put the ball in the net, even when you're not at your best. You could say he's the Gary Twigg of this league. The finish for the winning goal was unbelievable. There was only one place he could put the ball to score that goal and that's exactly where he put it. He flicked it right into that top corner. It was a superb finish.”

Ards took the lead in the third minute when another recent recruit, Colum Curtis scored his first goal for the club. The winger found himself in space on the edge of the area before drilling the ball low into the bottom corner of the PSNI net.

If Ards fans thought they were about to witness another comfortable victory over PSNI, who they beat 7-0 earlier in the season, then they were soon to be disappointed.

The Police side fought back and deservedly equalised in the first minute of the second half. Kyle Agnew burst into the penalty box before lobbing Ards goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan, who hadn't even managed to put his gloves on following the half time interval.

With the rain and the wind beating down, the match looked like it was on course for a scrappy draw when O'Neill produced a moment of magic. The former Bangor man flicked the ball into the top corner from 10 yards, keeping his cool in the midst of a penalty box scramble.

Reflecting on the game, Ards boss Currie said: “There's no doubt it was a poor performance, but nobody will look back in a few months' time and talk about the performance, they will just see that we won the game. It's put a little bit of pressure on the other top teams and given ourselves a little bit of breathing space, which is what we set out to do this morning.

“When we won the league a couple of years ago we beat Loughgall 3-2 in terrible conditions and we didn't play particularly well. That ended up being a massive three points, and perhaps we will look back on this win in a similar light at the end of the season. That's five wins from six games since Christmas, so I don't think anyone can complain about the results.

“I told Jamesie Kirk after the game that if his squad play like that every week, they can avoid relegation. I credit them for a very good performance.”

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